OHIO CITY, Oh - The High School Golf season ended in late October as the Wildcats made it to the final weekend of the season as they qualified for the State Tournament after a third-place finish at Districts. Senior Bradley Chill was a first-place medalist at Districts at Pine Hills, shooting an incredible 68. A phenomenal team performance punched the Wildcats’ ticket to Columbus to compete for an unprecedented third straight State Championship.
The 2023 Golf Cats were a young squad this year but included senior leadership from Chill, Julian Dugan, Frank Adamo and Ben Emerson. This season also marked the first season for Head Golf Coach Kevin Neitzel ’90.
“I didn’t know what to expect this season and I loved every minute of it. This brought back a ton of great memories,” Neitzel reflects. “With the youth that we have and their commitment to the game, I am excited to see the direction where the program is heading; it is only going to get better. I and the coaching staff are thrilled about the future.”
With a young core, the Wildcats earned their first invitational win early in the season when they placed first at the Brunswick Tee-Off Classic, giving early momentum to the season. The Cats would have a couple of struggles in the middle of the season, with a seventh-place finish at the Reece Alexander Invitationals and a ninth-place finish at the Kiely Cup at Canterbury. As the regular season wound down, the Wildcats began playing their best on the course.
“I started playing better as the season progressed; I shot better later in the year,” says Chill. “You have to go out and shoot good scores; if you go out and get a good score, everything else will take care of itself.”
Chill will continue his academic and golf career with former teammate and classmate Nick Piesen ’23 at Indiana University. Chill would finish the season breaking a program record for the lowest average, overtaking the record from Piesen and Topher Reed ’22 with an average season score of 70.59.
“It is an honor to have that record and I am proud to have the legacy of being a Saint Ignatius golfer,” says Chill. “I hope future Wildcat golfers will have the same success; I am going to root for them and wish nothing but the best.”
Throughout the season, the Wildcats got a boost from their senior leadership and coach Neitzel was grateful for their contributions to the program. “The seniors brought a ton of leadership into this season. Julian, for example, would come to tryouts with donuts for all the guys. They were always engaged with the rest of the team,” explains Neitzel. “We did a ton of traveling this season, going to Columbus, Cincinnati, Canton and so on and they made the younger guys comfortable being a part of the team.”
Dugan is another Wildcat golfer who will continue his academic and golf career at Purdue University Fort Wayne. As a senior leader, Dugan immediately saw the potential of the younger Wildcats. “Next year, Alex, Fitch and Craig Carneval could take a huge jump for this program,” Dugan says. “We won the Sectional Championship, came in third at Districts and only missed first by a couple of shots. At the State Tournament, we struggled the first day, but we improved the second day.”
The Wildcats returned to the Scarlet Course in Columbus for the State Tournament as they would compete in the two-day tournament on October 20 and October 21. Some would argue this to be the most challenging course in Ohio. “It is hard to replicate the pressure and environment you will see in Columbus,” explains Neitzel. “The course is 7,000 yards and by the time you play in late October, the weather is cold and the ball doesn’t travel as well.”
“The Scarlet Course is the most difficult course in Ohio; I am so glad I don’t have to compete there again,” Dugan says. “All the coaches were positive and kept our heads in it.”
On the first day, the young Wildcats struggled as they would finish with a team score of 319 and finish in ninth. Chill would shoot a team-best 76 on day one. The Wildcats were much improved on day two, with a team score of 314. The Cats would place seventh at the State Tournament.
Although it wasn’t the result the Wildcats were hoping for when they began this season, it was beneficial for the program’s future with a great group of underclassmen. “We have a lot of young talent,” says Neitzel. “I thought this team did a great job this season; they met and even exceeded expectations.”
On the JV level, Nick Restifo’s Hon. ’19 Cats were brilliant as they would capture 11 first-place victories in their dual schedule. The first- and second-year students will look to take a giant leap to the varsity level next season.
As the season comes to an end, the future of Wildcat Golf is bright under coach Netizel and his staff.